- I and II had the Republic and Democracy governments in combination with the "We Love the X" Day and trade mechanics. While other governments simply gave resource gathering bonuses to cities with enough happy citizens, Republic and Democracy governments got those bonuses by default, and happiness allowed for instantaneous population growth instead. Meanwhile, trade caravans could be built and sent to foreign cities for absolutely ludicrous one-time cash windfalls. The upshot of this was that a civilization with these two governments could effectively pour the vast majority of its taxes into luxuries and watch as all of their cities turned into economic powerhouses over a few turns, continuously pump out trade caravans, and use the absurd amounts of money they would soon have in order to rush build any and all units and improvements necessary. The only downside (a Senate that would veto war declarations and try to force your civilization to make peace during negotiations whenever possible) was negated by the fact that the AI was already suicidally aggressive anyway, and that the player could use spies and their ludicrous piles of money to subvert enemy cities even when not at war. "Power Democracy" takes a bit of fine-tuning to pull off correctly, but it'll allow you to run away with the game if you manage it right.
- The original Civilization had the Pyramids wonder. With just Masonry technology needed to build them, they allow you to change your government at whim, to any type of government (even if you haven't yet researched it), without an anarchy period. That basically allows democracy (a game breaker government all in itself) about 3000 BC. And then, if you ever need to kick someone's butt but the Congress overrules it, just start a revolution, declare war, and continue enjoying benefits of democracy the very next turn! The only thing you need to watch out for is to never study Communism, which disables the Pyramids effect, and luckily, it sits pretty high up in the science tree and you don't really need it.
- There was supposed to be a major disadvantage to Republic and Democracy: you have to accept any peace offers. But there was a very simple counter: just don't ever meet with representatives from other civilizations. In Civilization II, they tried to eliminate this tactic by allowing a civilization to force a meeting with you any time you move a unit next to one of theirs. Since this ability was exercised most commonly after you take an enemy city, the response to this was to eliminate the defenders from several cities, then take over all of them at once.
- The humble Chariot, en masse. Civilization 1 military scales a bit slowly with tech level, so neglecting your infrastructure and economy in favor of a network of undeveloped small cities pumping out an endless wave of Chariots works pretty well for would-be world despots.
- The game had a bug that allowed each Settler to perform any one Settler action each turn (some of them were intended to take more than a dozen turns). You could also, strangely enough, build railroads in the middle of the ocean.
- The Civilization II Pyramids counted as a free Granary in every city you have from when you build it (right at the start of the game) right up to the end. Quite efficient for the 200 resource costnote to get double population growth in all cities and that never expires!
- There are also a number of game breaking wonders, such as Leonardo's Workshop, which upgrades all your units to more modern equivalents when the necessary technology is researched, allowing the player to crank out a huge army of cheap early-game units and then rush to a key technology to boost them up to powerful, expensive late-game units.note
- If another civilization is getting ahead of you technologically, you can take over a city (which allows you to steal a tech), move all of your units out of the city, let them take it back, then retake it before they have time to fortify their troops. Rinse, repeat. Add in some tech-stealing diplomats, and you can eliminate several centuries' worth of technological lead in a few turns.
- You can produce unlimited Hides caravans and re-home to a city with high trade. With an advanced civilization, this can result in a new tech each turn, and more money than you'll know what to do with. The game designers apparently tried to prevent this by disallowing re-homing of caravans, but forgot to eliminate it from both menus.
- Having both Railroad and Explosives completely changed warfare. If you had enough Engineers, you could build a railroad across any distance of grassland or plains in a single turn, then use that railroad to transport units across the railroad (all in the same turn). Your artillery only has one movement point? That won't stop you from using it to attack a city a dozen squares away. You can also use a chain of Transports to move a unit across any distance of water in a single turn.
- The resources themselves. Not only they can make or break a new city, but in early game, when your civilization is struggling under Despotism caps on production, tiles with resources are allowed to exceed that cap. This means you can get tiles that have industrial-era productivity from the first turn. And well-placed city can have 4 of those within its borders.
- If you're going for a conquest victory, the Fundamentalism government type makes taking over the world easy. Under Fundamentalism you never have any unhappy citizens, and buildings that normally increase happiness instead produce gold (and never require maintenance). You can also produce the Fanatics units, and each city can support up to 8 of them for free. The only downside of Fundamentalism is that scientific research is halved, which isn't a big deal once your armies are rolling since you gain enemy civilization techs you don't have yet on city conquest.
- Civilization III had the Small Wonder "Wall Street". Its effect? Giving you 5% interest on your treasury per turn. After a few turns you had no money issues for the rest of the game, as long as you kept your treasury above zero. It was later fixed with an Obvious Rule Patch, capping the generated income from the building to 50 gold - which is still more than enough to make it worthwhile.
- The Persians are considered by many to be the most powerful civilization in the game because they possess the Industrious and Scientific traits, which grants them bonuses to both production and research. Additionally, their unique unit, the Immortals, are the single most powerful ancient age offensive unit (it isn't until knights come along that a unit possesses more offensive power). For perspective, they have 4/2/1 attack/defense/movement, while the middle ages Longbowman has 4/1/1. The sheer power of the Immortals makes it easy for the Persians to conquer other civilizations during the ancient age and even well into the middle ages.
- The Ottoman Empire has the same traits as Persia and for its unique unit gets a cavalry replacement with 8 attack strength- the same number Tanks defend at. The tech to unlock them comes in the late Middle Ages, when the strongest non-unique unit defends at strength 4. They're expensive, but you won't need to build anything else until the late Industrial era.
- The Statue of Zeus World Wonder gives you a free Ancient Cavalry unit every 5 turns. They're 3/2 mounted units that also gets an extra hitpoint, letting them go to six. Since retreat odds for mounted units are tied to hitpoint totals, they're notoriously resilient as well, both on the attack and defense. Their total stats makes them by far the most powerful military unit in the Ancient World, and they'll be able to keep up with Middle Age units too, only tapering off in usefulness once you get to the end of the Middle Ages and Cavalry are an option. Of course, you need Iron or Saltpepper and Horses to build Knights and Cavalry; Ancient Cavalry need only Ivory, and produce for free every five turns.
- The Sistine Chapel Great Wonder doubles the effects of all Cathedrals in your empire. Cathedrals make three unhappy citizens content in their city. With the Sistine Chapel under your belt and only a modest investment into citizen happiness, your can ensure you'll never suffer civil disorder. Best of all, the Sistine Chapel never becomes obsolete like many other wonders.
- Armies. Not the standard troops you march around the map, but the special unit you can create with a combat-spawned Great Leader. Load them up with three of the same unit for an (invisible) +1 attack/defense/movement bonus, and the combined health of all three units (four with a certain Small Wonder). They also heal incredibly quickly, even in enemy territory (normally impossible without a late-game Small Wonder) and the AI will never attack them unless it has a much more advanced units (as in, two eras ahead) or literally no other targets on the landmass. Armies are, simply put, a One-Man Army of a unit that is very difficult to stop. The only trick is getting one since Great Leaders spawn at random.
- Signing a Right of Passage agreement with an AI, then positioning massive armies right outside the other civilization's cities and declaring war. Cue Curb-Stomp Battle, basically circumventing rules on movement in enemy territory. Even worse if you have Elimination rules turned on, which make it so that the loss of the AI's capital (or even a couple of smaller cities) will remove them from the game completely and instantly. Granted, this will make the entire world refuse to ever sign Right of Passage agreements with you for the rest of the game, and good luck trying to get another human to fall for it. Later games fixed this by teleporting all your military units out of enemy territory the moment you declare war.
- The Incas got an odd case of Power Creep as IV's expansions were released, even though they were in the game from the start, making them arguably the strongest and most versatile Civ in the final game. Originally, Huanya Capac was Aggressive and Financial, which is a pretty strong combination to start with. Then for some reason he lost Aggressive but got the even more powerful Industrious trait to replace it (letting him build forges for production much faster and wonder-spam while he's at it). However, Quechas still get Combat 1 like they would if the Incas still had Aggressive, and they don't go obsolete as quickly as normal Warriors, so doing a Zerg Rush with Quechas and then upgrading them is viable for longer than usual. On top of all that, the Inca's unique Granary grants the same culture bonus as the Creative trait, and you're probably going to be building them in every city anyway. So now you've got a Civ with effectively four traits to everyone else's two.
- In every game the AI occasionally beseeches you for gifts or demands you give them tribute, depending on how powerful you are compared to them, and, often, giving into more powerful nations results in them doing it more and more often and gaining a stranglehold on your resources until you become more powerful than them. If you decline, however, the opposing power will become angered and, should you keep doing it, eventually declare war, which is bad if they are more powerful than you. In IV, you can negotiate tribute, essentially attempting to make a trade out of it or lessen the blow... but the game treats this like a normal trade — that is, the game now treats the negotiations as if you started them in the first place, meaning you can exit with no consequences to relationship, basically destroying the entire tribute system completely thanks to an oversight. Since the AI is pretty conniving and cruel when it comes to lording over any advantage in the first place, this seems relatively fair, all things considered.
Civilization IV Mods
- Caveman2Cosmos has a few civics that make or break your civilization:
- Matriarchy makes population increase 15% cheaper and in the same time provided 5% more food production. It is accessible since early sedimentry life. The benefits remain valid for the rest of the game. Yeah. Unless you are fishing for Great People (something Representative Democracy excells at), you will run this civic from the moment of adoption to the end of the game.
- Coinage provides pretty lackluster bonuses, along with hampering profit from trade routes... but it's the only of the Currency civis allowing the option to speed construction by paying for it, up until modern tech. Coinage shows up at the start of Classical Antiquity period.
- Planned economy gives an absurd 35% increase of production, along with further boosting tile-improvements that give raw production. It also allows spending money on construction to finish faster, thus allowing bigger flexibility with Currency civics. Nothing comes even close to this bonus. It allows both to construct all the expensive factories of early industrialisation with ease and then maintain the high production edge over other civs indefinitely.
- Fall from Heaven features the All-In Death Magic strategy. Generally, the game balances "training combat units" and "training wizards who summon combat units" against each other by having summoned units be very weak, short-lived, and expendable, whereas combat units are expensive but powerful. A pit demon has base power 5 but the equivalent melee unit, the champion, has base power 8; this balances the fact that if the champion dies you need to train another one, which costs resources, whereas if the pit fiend dies you just summon another one, which doesn't. The problem with All-In-Death Magic is that while the Specter, the mid-level necromancy summon, has only base power 3, it also has Move 2, Fear and Affinity For Death Magic, the last of which gives it +1 base power for every source of death mana you control. It is very easy to get three or four death magic nodes in your empire, at which point the free Specter can fight toe-to-toe with the expensive champion, letting you destroy any enemy army by sitting back and sending in wave after wave of expendable summons while your wizards stay far enough away to be in no danger.
- Death Magic also gives its users the ability to summon skeletons, which make for excellent Zerg Rush material because unlike Spectres, they don't have a duration limit, so you can field as many of them as you have casters who know the spell. This is a civ-wide limit, so you can keep training adepts in your own territory while summoning with your main attack force, effectively letting the new skeletons "teleport" to one side or the other as needed.
- This helps make the Sheaim faction a Game Breaker in their own right, since not only are their Pyre Zombies the best early-game infantry unit available, but their Mobius Witches are the earliest unit that can cast Summon Spectre, making them one of the only factions that starts deadly and stays that way throughout the game.
- In Realism Invictus, Charge Mounted Units have the same collateral damage feature that catapults have in vanilla Civ 4, except unlike catapults, chargers are typically fast enough to avoid interception by the enemy and have a withdrawal chance, which lets them potentially survive an otherwise-suicidal charge into an enemy stack. With enough cavalry, even specialized anti-cavalry units like Spearmen and Pikemen can be reduced to easy kills regardless of defense bonuses, and the War of Attrition doctrine you can pick up early on gives them a unique set of promotions including first strikes, greater withdrawal chance, and blitznote . Having horses in RI is enough to turn the whole war game around.
- In Rhye's and Fall: Dawn of Civilization, the original Rhye's and Fall's spiritual successor, China is the most ridiculous civilization in the current 1.15 patch. Its unique power was changed from faster melee/gunpowder unit production to a increased science rate for technologies that nobody has discovered yet. While China still suffers from tech cost penalties, the bonus is big enough to ensure a massive snowball should either the player or even the AI, depending on how high the difficulty is, maximize it's infrastructure. While you're still a target for various barbarians and other hostile neighbors, the player is still capable to prepare himself to beat the onslaught, ensuring that he can propel at an even higher rate, thanks to it's very fat and rich core cities.
- England's unique power, Indirect Rule. For most other colonizing civs, Colonies tend to be astronomically high, due to the distance maintenance. Indirect Rule disables this, letting England to freely spam cities on other continents, where otherwise any other civ would suffer heavily on high costs. And the fact that England gets a unique Musketman that has collateral damage, of all the things, means that indeed, the Sun shall never set on England.
- Before they were nerfed, China was a monster at warmongering. Their special ability, Art of War, lets them gain Great Generals 50% faster, and before nerf they gave a 20% additional bonus to combat ability on top of a normal Great General's 20%. Combine this with the Chu-Ko-Nu, the Chinese unique crossbowman that dealt more damage per hit and could attack twice. Since you gained Great Generals from combat, the Chu-Ko-Nu's rate of fire fed into the 50% additional Great Generals. And those Great Generals would feed the China war machine further with their massive 40% bonus to combat. Swarms of Chinese Chu Ko Nu could strip even the most massive of cities down to nothing in the blink of an eye, and you'd soon have more Great Generals than you knew what to do with, which would promptly go into feeding you Golden Ages. Combined with an excellent Unique Library and China had almost no weaknesses. Later, the Chukonu were nerfed to deal less damage per hit than a regular crossbowman, and the Great General bonus was reduced to 30% combat bonus rather than 40%.
- The "reduction in gold cost of items" effects, all combined, are very strong in the right hand. 25% for going 3 social policies into the Commerce branch,additive with 15% for building Big Ben, and multiplicative with 33% for units 2 social policies into the Autocracy branch means a whopping 60% discount for units.
- El Dorado, otherwise known as Skill Dorado, gives 500 gold to the first person who finds it. That's enough to buy an instant settler, which is a massive advantage in the early game. Find it as Spain, you get 1000 gold allowing for two instant settlers.
- The downside to Gandhi's special ability could (before a patch nerfed these effects) be entirely negated by a social policy and a wonder. With the right buffs, India could have an incredible populace, while maintaining a happiness so high that they would be in an almost constant Golden Age.
- The "Faith Healers" belief available for religions grants all units +30 HP per turn they spend next to or in a friendly city. For most of the game, this is barely any good. Once aircraft enter the picture, it's extremely powerful; aircraft are infinitely stackable within a city, which means any number of them get the healing benefit simultaneously. Other units have to make their way to the target, and don't get the faith healer's bonus until they make it back home, while aircraft always return back to their city after completing their mission. Combined with the air repair promotion, which lets units heal even when attacking, this makes for an entire air force that recovers nearly half of its maximum health every turn. Since there's no "non-air units" qualifier for Faith Healers, this works in practice the same way it does on paper, and can even make spreading your religion a detriment, since enemies following the same religion still get the bonus. Later patches made it only possible to store 6 aircraft (raisable to 10 with an Airport) per city, nerfing this greatly.
- The "Beaker Overflow" bug / exploit. At its worst, one could compound enough "beakers" (or amount of science currently outputted) to 100k+ by the later parts of the Renaissance era; that's enough to buy just about every techs in the game. Even slightly tamer methods yields thousands of free beakers, a not insignificant amount in the same era.
- This can actually backfire to the other end of "broken", too. Accidentally overflowing past about 210k science output (achievable only through this exploit or modding, actually) will net you a ridiculously large "beaker" deficit, more than enough to halt your tech progress for the rest of the game.
- As mentioned below, pretty much anything that increases science, including Civs with science bonuses, is potentially a game-breaker. It doesn't matter if the war-focused civilization gets +15% to damage if they're still shooting muskets while the science-focused civilization has got tanks. It doesn't matter if the trade-focused civilization gets +15% to income if they're still using carts while the science-focused civilization has got trucks and automobiles. The problem so often in these kinds of games is that science makes everything better, meaning science-focused civilizations will be better than everyone at everything just by virtue of their tech.
- In multiplayer, against other human players, no Civ is more directly effective than Babylon. The reason is quite clear: no other civilization generates nearly as much science as quickly as Babylon does. In a game where staying on top of the Tech race is critical to staying ahead of enemies, particularly those with period-specific unique units, Babylon can make the entire game laughably easy, due to the sheer amount of Science they can generate. Upon discovering Writing, Babylon receives a free Great Scientist, and they earn Great Scientists at a 50% faster rate than anyone else. Since Writing also contains the Great Library, which grants a free Tech to whomever builds it first, this can quickly lead to Nebuchadnezzer outstripping everyone else within 50 turns. Coupled with the fact that Babylon's unique building adds extra health to its cities, and has great synergy with its unique unit, and Babylon is assured to survive the critical first few turns it needs before it can reach Writing. There's a reason why Babylon is always ranked very high in Tier lists, and it's not uncommon to see the Civ banned entirely in Multiplayer games.
- On a similar note due to new DLC, there's Korea. As the only other Civ in the game which adds directly to science, Korea is often as high or higher on the list as Babylon in multiplayer. They may not have the free Great Scientist Babylon gets, but their +2 science per specialist and tech boosts from science buildings makes them snowball hard once they get going. All a Korean player needs to do is to specialize in having as many specialists as possible while simultaneously popping down as many great people improvements as possible, and he will be virtually rolling in science. This combined with the fact that they have a strong naval defense unit from the Renaissance on and a good anti-personnel siege unit in the beginning of the game, and you have a very difficult Civ to take down.
- For basically the same reason, if you're reading a guide on which policies to take, chances are, regardless of your civ, it'll recommend you max out Rationalism as soon as possible. The only reason it's not broken is that everyone takes it.
- For non-science civs, Poland, oddly for a civilization that's often the butt of jokes, is widely seen as this. Its unique ability lets it get a free Social Policy every time it advances an Era - and with seven eras to advance through, that's enough to fill out an entire extra tree with space left over. Because of this, Poland can basically become a Master of All as the game goes on. And if that wasn't enough, it also has the Ducal Stables, which is basically purpose-built to turn a civ into a cavalry power, and the Winged Hussar, a mounted unit that can certifiably shred any other army of the era. Once they've unlocked it, they can basically take over the planet - and even if they're held off, they can use their free social policies to seamlessly transition into whatever other victory condition fits the situation.
- How to become an overnight military powerhouse in the early Industrial era: save up a policy and a couple thousand gold, research Industrialization, then quickly buy three factories to unlock an Ideology. Choose Freedom, then use your two bonus first-adopter tenets and your saved policy to choose the Volunteer Army second-tier tenet. This grants you six free Foreign Legion units, which are not only strength 50 but get a combat bonus when in enemy territory, at a time that your most likely competition will be a strength 34 Rifleman or strength 24 Musketman. Now go "liberate" the hell out of your neighbors. (This one requires the Policy Saving game option to be enabled - which, by default, it isn't, precisely to prevent this manner of chicanery. Normally you're forced to buy a policy if possible before ending your turn, meaning you have at least one culture cycle between establishing an ideology and getting a second-tier benefit, giving the general tech level time to catch up with the Foreign Legion.)
- Prior to the Industrial Era, siege units tend to be weak against city attacks, the very thing they're specialized at attacking. Enter the Artillery - an increased range makes them impossible to hit by a city's attack, and that's not counting the fact that it can shoot over all terrain, including mountains. It's telling that almost all civ players consider the Artillery to be a massively game-changing unit to whoever gets it first.
- Ranged combat in general is hilariously useful compared to melee combat, due to the ability to have multiple ranged units focus fire on a single target without retaliation. Sure, a swordsman might win handily against an archer in single combat, but none of that matters if he gets shot to bits by five or six archers before he can even close to melee distance. Ring a city with archers and it's only a matter of time before you bring its HP to zero, after which even your weakest melee unit can just stroll in to capture it. And since ranged attacks are risk-free, you can rinse-and-repeat this tactic with the same units against the enemy's next city without having to spend as much time healing and replacing damaged units as you would with melee.
- This was even worse in earlier versions, where every unit in the game had exactly 10HP, which meant that a squad of ten archers could literally destroy any unit in the game with Scratch Damage; not even Giant Death Robots could survive the barrage.
- And all this becomes worse if your Civ is lucky enough to have mounted archers, like Arabia's Camel Archer or Mongolia's Keshik. Since mounted archers can move after firing, you're no longer limited by the number of open tiles around a city; all you need is one tile with a clear shot to set up a "carousel of death," cycling your units around so that they can all shoot at the city of your choice and then retreat to safety. No city can stand up to that assault, no matter how well defended.
- Keshiks and Camel Archers are so powerful that some players actually consider them a detriment to playing as Mongolia or Arabia in multiplayer, because any human player who knows better won't let Arabia or Mongolia live long enough to start fielding them, even if it means dogpiling onto them with other players.
- The salt luxury resource. Gives a base bonus of +1 gold and +1 food, and when improved adds +1 production and another +1 food. In the early game, when food is critical to rapidly grow your population (and therefore scientific output and the ability to work additional city tiles), being able to add to your food alongside your production can make a city unstoppable. This is especially the case as no other luxury resource (barring certain Pantheon bonuses) gives simultaneous increases to production and food when improved. Oh, and salt can be improved with only Mining (certain resources require two techs like Mining + Calendar, or even three like Mining + Bronze Working + Calendar), and can be improved in less than half the time of a resource on marsh or jungle. Did your starting location spawn next to two or three salt resources? Congratulations, you will dominate the early game, even on higher difficulty levels. Conversely, did you spawn in the midst of a lot of jungle? Enjoy having practically no production capacity and not being able to exploit any jungle-located resources until you research the three previously mentioned techs, allowing other civs to roll over you as you're just getting started!
- The simplified mechanics provide a number of opportunities to completely dominate the AI even on the most difficult setting. And the Leonardo's Workshop wonder is formidable, since it upgrades all your existing units. Given the right circumstances, you can destroy any AI. First, always produce as many cheap, weak units as possible. As you're doing this, follow the path on your technology tree to discover the internal combustion engine. Time the building of Leonardo's Workshop so that it occurs right after you discover the engine and gain the ability to build a tank. All those cheap warriors you've been building since the beginning? They're now tanks. The game is over in 2 or 3 rounds max.
- And one way to get those techs to get the tanks? Atlantis. Granted, you need to crank out a galleon at some point. But grabbing this artifact is almost mandatory (especially if nothing else to make sure the opponent doesn't!).
- Unlike the normal games, Civ Rev only has ONE nuke. Guess what happens when you're the first to get it? And guess how far down the line SDI is?
- Like in the original Civilization, Pyramids allow you access to any government of your choosing upon getting them, and like the original, getting Democracy long before others can gives you such a massive advantage, not even Atlantis will be enough to catch up.
- The Great Wall Wonder, which forces everyone to be at peace with you, and forces them to offer it if they aren't. The problem with this (beyond breaking the AI until a tech makes it irrelevant) is that while they need to stay at peace, you don't. There's nothing preventing you from putting a massive pile of catapults right outside your opponent's border, declaring war, taking a city, and then accepting the peace they've been forced to give you the next turn.
- On release, selling units. When the player deleted units, they were refunded a sum of money that often outweighed the expense necessary to get the unit in the first place. This feature was removed in the first patch, since it led to several exploits ranging from minor to severe:
- One simple trick during a war was to sell a military unit that was too weakened to possibly survive another attack, using the money to fund more troops. While buying a replacement unit cost more money than what was received from selling the original, hey - it's essentially free money anyway, since you're going to lose that unit.
- Cavalry units tended to sell for high amounts, and it is possible as early as the Ancient era to accrue several bonuses that improve production values for cavalry units, which made it easy to churn them out in as few as one or two turns* and then sell them immediately for profit. When playing as Scythia, who get two units instead of one when building light cavalry, the profit from this method bordered on obscene.
- In an example of truly broken balancing: in the late game it was possible to purchase multiple units at once stacked together as a corps or army. While an army of three mechanized infantry, as an example, buys for about eight-thousand gold, it could be sold for as much as twelve-thousand. A player with enough money to buy a single army could do so, then sell it back for the money to buy another plus extra, multiple times, allowing them to accrue a truly unlimited amount of money in a single turn.
- All of these exploits were succinctly dealt with in the first major patch. Disbanded units no longer give gold and damaged units cannot be sold, period.
- City-States now provide unique bonuses to their controlling Civ, which can seriously impact the game. Such as Valletta allowing encampment and city center buildings to be purchased with faith. Buenos Aries causing bonus resources to grant amenities like luxury resources. Or Carthage adding an extra trade route for each encampment.
- Sumeria is often seen as one. They have the powerful Warcart unit - available from turn 1 with high movement and combat strength with no weakness to Anti-Cavalry units. The constant spawning of Barbarian Encampments is a benefit for them since clearing one provides a tribal village reward. Combined with Ziggurats for early Science/Culture and you have a civ that hits its maximum power on the very first turn with the ability to steamroll neighbors and mature quickly
- Scythia is a monster of war. +5 combat strength against any unit that is not at full health will mean they almost always have an edge on the combat strength match-up - which also hinders enemies further since they already have combat strength penalties when injured. Scythian units healing up to 30 health on kill also gives them an edge in wars of attrition. Their ability to get two Light Cavalry units whenever they produce a single one applies well to Zerg Rush tactics that involve simply swarming the enemy with masses of fast and powerful Horsemen. Their Kurgan tile improvement will also ensure they never run short of money to keep the war-machine going.#
- For cultural victories and score victories, Qin Shi Huang's China. Your unique benefits allow you to gain extra 10% completion if you get a Eureka moment, an extra build action from your builders, and the ability to speed up the process of an ancient or classical era wonder by sacrificing a build action. This allows you to quickly snatch all the good early game wonders, most notable being the Pyramids which grants you yet another build action. You'll likely win a cultural victory before the 16th century is over if you play your cards right.
- The Theocracy government used to allow you to purchase military units with faith rather than gold. With the right build this could help you field entire hordes without losing much money (if any). Now it's taken Up to Eleven with the ability delegated to "Grand Master's Chapel", an independent building. With the latest updates, Theocracy simply lowers the faith cost of purchase, apparently to ease spreading of religion... Combining this with the chapel, and "Jesuit Education", AND a Golden Age of Monumentality, a faith-intensive civilization can build entire districts, workers, buildings and armies free of charge.
- The Gathering Storm expansion added the Mali civilization, which is focused on accruing an obscene amount of gold. Their unique commercial hub, the Sugubu, gives a 20% discount to all gold purchases, including those for units. The Democracy government, (at the time), added another 20% discount, resulting in a 40% discount on unit purchases. Pretty good, but not broken... unless the Ngarzagamu city-state is in the game. Their suzerain bonus gives a 20% discount on unit purchases for each building in the purchasing citys encampment district since an encampment can hold three buildings, this adds up to 60%. So, a Malian city with a Sugubu and a full encampment, under the democracy government with Ngarzagamu as a suzerain, could buy units at a 100% discount. Thats right, they were able to field an entire late-game war machine without paying a penny. Since the Mali are so rich that the gold upkeep would be negligible, the only downside is that some units require strategic resources to maintain, and too many of those will put you under, but being smart about how many units you purchase and/or having access to a lot of strategic resources make this a non-issue. The first patch after the Mali's release bumped the Democracy discount down to 15%, meaning the Mali have to pay something, but 5% of the total cost is still ludicrously low.
- Also in Gathering Storm, we have Hungary, and more specifically Matthias Corvinus. Matthias' leader ability, on release, meant that units levied from city-states gained both +2 movement and +5 combat strength, levying such units granted two envoys to the CS in question, and their unique Black Army gained +3 combat strength per adjacent levied unit. The biggest aspect of this ability, however, was that levied units could be upgraded completely free of charge. With a Foreign Ministry (levying costs half gold and provides those units an additional +4 strength), a fat bank, and with enough city-states under their belt, Hungary could completely sweep the world with hordes of the best units available. A later patch nerfed this ability, but only slightly: a 75% discount instead of free.
- Australia has consistently stayed at the top of tier lists in VI. Their main ability means that coastal starts are much easier to deal with thanks to that extra housing, they can snap up lands quickly thanks to pastures triggering culture bombs, and can gain some truly ridiculous yields if they build some of their districts on tiles with high appeal (this includes campuses that can provide +10 science right from the get-go if they're lucky enough). Outback Stations can turn deserts into breadbaskets if there are enough sheep around, and can get some fairly decent food and production if the placement's right. However, there's also the fact that attacking Australia doubles their production for 10 turns, which provides a slight dilemma if you're worried about them beating you: either you can leave them alone and let them snowball, or try to take them out and have them get their jobs done faster and build up an army big enough to push you back. Also, those desert cities that pump out food and production for Australia become next to useless for you if you take them, as those Stations disappear and your new territory becomes a liability. On top of this, if they declare war on you and you're suzerain to at least one city-state, that CS will declare war on Australia and trigger the ability, so that's double production for them again.
- Babylon. Sweet lord, Babylon. If you thought Civ 5 Babylon was broken, you ain't seen nothing yet. Its ability to instantly finish any research when corresponding mini objectives called "Eureka" is completed can break any game. If Babylon is spawned near stone, iron and some bonus food crop, it can explode from bone tools into industrial district within less than 40 turns, industrial steel enough to build Eiffel Tower and bypass all wall constructions before Christ if lucky.
- This is actually so ridiculous that it can hilariously cripple you if you play a gimmick tribal village on every tile map. You simply don't have enough hammers to build Mechanized Infantry at such low pop while enemy swordsmen are taking your city.
- Russia was already considered to be high-tier from launch, with their cheap Holy Site replacement making it very easy to get both an early religion and tons of culture. The only thing really holding them back was that darned Tundra start bias and its associated lack of production. Enter the patch to the Work Ethic Founder Belief in mid-2020 (which buffed Work Ethic to make Holy Sites provide production equal to their adjacency bonuses) and the Dance of the Aurora pantheon (+1 adjacency to each Holy Site from each adjacent tundra tile) and it becomes insanely easy to give out +6 or more faith and production to all of your cities. (At this point in the game, you usually have to have built one or more Builders and a few faith buildings to obtain those yields.)
- The new Work Ethic belief combos well with any of the three terrain-based pantheons, but Russia is the best at consistently getting the most out of it, due to almost always starting near lots of tundra and having a cheaper way to get to an early pantheon.